MONTREUX, Switzerland - Leading European automakers and suppliers want to set up an alternative online parts exchange to Covisint.
Wilhelm Becker, senior vice president of purchasing at BMW AG, said BMW has not joined Covisint because it is perceived as a US-controlled network that would endanger the industrial secrets of its members.
Becker spoke at a panel discussion at the Automotive News Europe Congress here.
Becker said BMW was involved in discussions to set up a European exchange. Potential partners include Fiat Auto, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Volkswagen, Siemens Automotive and Bosch.
'Covisint is too controlled by our friends in America,' said Becker. 'We don't want our secrets in the hands of competitors. Covisint is not neutral enough.'
Covisint is the online exchange company set up in February by Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler. Other companies such as Renault, Nissan and Delphi also have signed up.
Replying to Becker, GM purchasing chief Harold Kutner said: 'Covisint is a facilitator. It enhances speed, and takes away bureaucracy. It is a global exchange, not a US exchange.
'Firewalls within Covisint's system will protect confidentiality,' he said. 'Different carmakers will be able to operate distinct purchasing systems within the exchange.'
But doubts about the effectiveness of Covisint also were expressed by Bertil Thoren, head of purchasing at Volvo Car Corp.
'There is a risk that relationships with suppliers could be affected,' he said. 'We don't want to destroy these relationships. We don't believe we'll ever make online quotes for parts.'
Another panel member, D/C's e-Extended Enterprise project director, Peter Weiss, said Covisint would expand into Europe and become a profitable, independent company.
'As soon as we have approval, we will go ahead and make Covisint independent. We want to make a profit,' he said. 'We are working with the European Commission and have already established an interim Covisint office in Europe.'
Despite the uncertainties about Covisint, Becker said the industry must aim to create common standards, and that BMW didn't want to build up a competitor to Covisint.
'Our overall target must be to establish a global automotive network,' he said. 'Different systems would put a strain on the resources of suppliers. We must include suppliers in our considerations. We need the ideas of suppliers.'
Becker criticized Covisint for focusing too directly on cost savings available to automakers and suppliers who joined the network.
'At the Geneva auto show (in March), Covisint talked about saving $3,000 of costs on a $20,000 car,' he said. 'This was wrong. Everyone now thinks it is a system for squeezing suppliers. Whoever is just thinking about costs is not thinking hard enough.'
Kutner said there were always suspicions about radical new initiatives in the auto industry, and that Covisint would prove its value to critics in the future.